Sunday, October 2, 2011

A record store is a sanctuary, a place where treasures are kept, discoveries are made, and where epiphanies take place. A good record store tells a story. It has character, a personality, and might look a little worse for wear. It has walls lined with unusual jazz records from Europe, album covers from bands you’ve never heard of, the sound of LPs being played behind the counter, and a clerk who wears cynicism like a cloak. Like a barber shop, the record store is a gathering place; a spot to connect with other listeners and bond over the vastness of sound.

Logan Hardware is an old boot of a record store, its red walls and dusty floor make the place feel more like a carpenter’s woodshed than a place to find great records. Once inside, the room engulfs you in everything that is grand about purchasing music in public, surrounded by ephemera and history. The store’s space is quite large and features thousands of LPs organized by musical style and format. One of the more unusual aspects of the shop is a fully functioning arcade, where customers can play a series of 1980s arcade games, all free of charge. The sites and sounds of the arcade space create a sort of suspended reality where you’re transported back to a mid-western town in 1985. As customers slowly wander into the arcade, giggling is often heard along with exclamations of “holy crap” and “oh my god!” Arcades, and the games they held, were the single most important adolescent activity for a large swath of American youth, and with their back room arcade, Logan Hardware has created a sort of temple to American puberty.

Logan Hardware arcade photo: John Dedeke
The arcade is a joyful trip down memory lane, but Logan Hardware is also one of the most diverse and engaging record stores on the northwest side of Chicago. The record buyers know their stuff and keep the shelves lined with rare finds, unusual reissues, and a surprising amount of stylistic variation. The shop has a fair amount of rare soul 45s. On the especially interesting 45s, the staff will pencil in a note on the paper record sleeve, extolling the virtues of the music on the small vinyl disk. One might find written on the record sleeve something like, “Great southern soul-funk from Muscle Shoals. Not as bluesy as you might expect, with a hard drum break in the middle. Very interesting.” A note like that does more than describe music, it creates a conversation between the record shop staff and the record buyer.

On a recent trip to Logan Hardware I purchased a fairly rare Chicago soul 45, and the clerk behind the counter told me that the record I was buying was part of one man’s vast record collection. She nodded in approval when I handed her the record, and seemed pleased that I had found happiness in this little piece of musical history. She made sure to let me know that one man had this record his whole life and these small gems were “his babies.” I looked down at the record in my hand and I knew it was something of great value. Suddenly, this piece of music wasn’t just a boss tune that I could play at a DJ gig, it was a continuation of a joyful past, and a shared experience between me and a man I’d never met. The woman behind the counter asked if I was a collector or a DJ, and I just smiled at her and said without hesitation, “yes I am .”

Logan Hardware is located at 2410 W. Fullerton in Chicago, and is open from
Monday-Saturday 12:00pm - 9:00pm and Sunday 12:00pm - 7:00pm.

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